Get The Right People On The Bus

I’m a fan of Jim Collins, who has spent years studying and writing about great companies; his most recent book is Great By Choice. One of his enduring principles is to get the right people on the bus, which he describes in this video:

As an entrepreneur, you are always cash-strapped, so sometimes you think it’s better to focus on hiring lower cost people. I can tell from hard-earned experience that it is critical that you surround yourself by GREAT people, and then figure out how you can afford them. A few things I have learned:

  1. Don’t hire clones. One of you is enough. You need to surround yourself with people who think differently and who are going to challenge your thinking. It is also really important to foster diversity in your company—age, race, gender, etc.
  2. Hire people who want a challenge and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and dig in. In a startup, every person has to pull more than their weight. You don’t have extra support people, so you need to hire people who are willing to wash the coffee mugs, then build a bullet-proof budget, and then meet with clients. Wow, that is a rare person. It takes resilience and a zest for trying new things.
  3. If someone isn’t working out, part quickly, and be fair about it.
  4. Beware of the pigpen effect. Over the years, I have hired a number of people with this effect: they spend an awful lot of time working (routing around in the muck), dust is swirling, but nothing ever seems to get done. Sometimes, they are hard to spot, because they are generally hard workers—so remember point number 3 above.
  5. Pedigree is less important than flexibility in a startup. I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs hire people with very impressive big corporate resumes who didn’t know the first thing about how to get things done in an unstructured startup environment. So, probe carefully to gauge someone’s ability to be flexible and agile.
  6. Hire people who are smarter and better than you are. You will never go wrong by hiring people who are GREAT in areas that you are weak! One of the first things an entrepreneur learns is that nobody is competent at everything, so you need to figure out what you aren’t good at and hire people who will fill in these gaps.

Finally, it’s important to have some fun in life. I like it best when some of the folks on my team are whacky, off-beat and just plain fun. Life is too short, and when the going gets tough, the tough get off the bus for an hour and have some fun.

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